Confession time: I'm not welcome in many places by many people right now. My wife can't stand me because I am constantly on the move in the house, because I don't want to go to bed and sleep, because even when I sit down to eat dinner I've got one eye on the computer screen waiting for news to break. My kids, well, I hope they don't notice too much that daddy has gone over the edge and only asks about school and how their day was this week because it is routine. They don't say much anyway, and I'm really not listening.
The gang at work doesn't want me buzzing around their desks talking and blabbering and eating any junk food they have nearby. They have enough on their minds. Everybody is busy. I have the attention span of a flea. I work at my desk for 20 minutes, get up and walk around and pester whoever dares look my way, walk downstairs and eat and apple or a cookie or drink a bottle of water or sip a soda. I read the papers, every one I can get my hands on, and then I get back to my desk and then I do it all over again 20 minutes later.
My mind is everywhere, and nowhere, and in one place: The Eagles.
My friends don't understand this feeling. Some of them are Eagles fans, and some of them are really into this team, but they don't know what is happening in my mind that is working overtime and in my body that is 1,000-percent adrenaline.
I've got Eagles Fever, playoff fever, NFC Championship Game fever, and I couldn't be happier about it.
I'm writing this from the comfort of a reclining chair, flipping through the channels on television (I've settled on Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure for the moment) and I'm eating pretzels and spinach dip and, honestly, I'm having a blast.
Sleep isn't an option right now, because when I lie down and try to close my eyes, I immediately start dreaming about Donovan McNabb throwing touchdown passes, Brian Westbrook squirting through a hole created by the offensive line and the defense making another big play. I hear Eagles fans in my brain, cheering, screaming, in love with their football team. My heart is thump, thump, thumping. The hours spent in bed are restless ones. I toss and turn and look at the clock and hope daylight comes quickly so that I can get up and go to the gym and work out the nervous energy that is pulsing through my veins.
Wake up, work out, go to work and feel the buzz even stronger. And get one day closer to Arizona.
I've gained 15 pounds since Thanksgiving. No lie. For the first time ever, as I step on the scale for the fourth time in a day, I weigh more than 190 pounds. I don't care. Who cares? I'm working out twice a day, I'm eating constantly, and I am heavier than ever. It's stress, but it's happy stress and I hope this lasts forever.
When I'm driving to work -- and this is full disclosure -- I'm tuned into Howard Stern. No sports talk for me. Not in the good times and not in the struggling times. That 25 minutes each way from suburban Philadelphia to the NovaCare Complex is my lone respite. That is my time to breath deeply, enjoy the drive, open up the sun roof and feel the cold air bounce off my face.
To be here, to be only days away from another NFC Championship Game, is a blessing. It is a special moment, and it is something all of us should pause to have and to hold and to enjoy. This is the game that, from 2001 through 2004, I'm afraid to admit, because almost routine. The Eagles made it to four straight NFC title games and, yeah, there were times when I thought it was going to be this way all the time. Not every year, of course, but often enough to feel the love and to one of these days reach the Super Bowl and win.
And after that magical Super Bowl experience of 2004 -- and that day in Jacksonville, with all of those incredible Eagles fans in the stands and with all of those people so happy and looking forward to the greatest win in franchise history -- the crushing reality of the loss hit home so incredibly hard. That feeling after a season ends -- and you know what I mean -- is the most hollow feeling of all. The next season seems so far away, and the prospect of starting all over again, for those few hours and days, is so dreary.
So there was an agonizing few seasons after the Super Bowl. An awful year in 2005, with high drama, with ugly confrontations, with a team being pulled apart at the seams. In 2006, the Eagles had a spirited sprint in December and then won a playoff game before the year hit the wall in New Orleans, as the Saints trampled the Eagles defense and a fourth-down conversion was called back and Andy Reid decided to punt and, ugh, what a painful loss.
What about 2007? A transition year, as it turned out. McNabb worked his way back from the knee injury that felled him the season before. The defense turned a corner and showed some great progress toward the end of the year, which ended 8-8. Momentum? Sure, some thought. Others figured the Eagles had plummeted to the bottom of the NFC East.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, expected this campaign to go the way it did. Up and down the Eagles went until the bottom fell out at 5-5-1. And, let me tell you, the times were tough with this football team in this football town. The critics wailed. The fans voiced their opinions. Loudly. It was hard to tell which way the Eagles were headed -- into a season with a meaningless December and the calls for wholesale changes throughout the team? -- and then Thanksgiving Night rolled around and, somehow, it all changed.
In a way, as I recall, it started with the fans. They showed up that night at Lincoln Financial Field and were into the game from the very start. They didn't boo and they didn't razz and they didn't sell their tickets and they didn't give them away to friends. They came and they were great. And the team was great, too, starting a sizzling stretch of 6 wins in 7 games.
This thing didn't turn around in the snap of a finger for the Eagles. They marched from one week to the next and won football games and got back into the playoff picture, and then they had the clunker against Washington and then, one week later, enjoyed the most incredible regular-season day in franchise history when all of the planets aligned and the Eagles lined up for their finale against Dallas with a playoff berth on the line.
The rest has been history. Three wins later, the Eagles are 60 minutes away from Super Bowl 43. There is a lot of work to do between now and Sunday, and the Eagles know they have to play their best game of the season with the stakes the highest they have been in 2008-2009 to advance. The coaches are entrenched and the players are just now digging in.
So are we. All of us. You. Me. Everyone. We all have the Fever. I'm looking forward to more sleepless nights, more pacing, more daydreaming and more nervous twitches. The tension builds and the excitement rises.
I'm going to enjoy every moment, and I'm going to savor it. Four teams remain in the NFL, and the Eagles are one of them. It is a feeling we all look forward to in those long, hot, awful days at Lehigh University, when the sweat is running down our backs and we are eating the same plate of pasta and sleeping in the same dorm room and waking up for more the next day.
Don't take this for granted. Not for one minute. Appreciate what the Eagles have, what we all have. Your favorite team is alive, breathing, well, still in the game for the grandest stage in all of sports.
The clock ticks. I'm up and moving again, looking for something to get me through the next hour. Pass the spinach dip, please, and if you aren't using the remote control ...